Mike Morales is always in motion. The energetic resident of United Hebrew’s senior apartments grew up running cross country trails in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. His job as a postal worker, then a postal supervisor, kept him physically active at work for his entire career. He developed a love for tennis, playing often and into his retirement.
Two years ago, at age 78, Morales suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular and rapid heart rhythm.
“It was a setback,” he recalls. “I lost my balance on my right side. I had to stop playing tennis. I thought for a minute, ‘why me’?”
With his new medical diagnosis and experiencing balance issues on his left side from his stroke, he didn’t succumb to self-pity. Instead, he embraced a new outlook on life, focusing on rehabilitation and the mantra, “If you fall down seven times, get up eight.”
Now, Morales has redefined his perspective on aging and continues to thrive. His remarkable recovery resulted from habits that are simple and supported by research emphasizing the importance of social engagement and movement for aging well.
3 Healthy Habits You Can Try Now
1. Just keep moving
After his stroke, Morales found solace and joy in swimming, incorporating it into his fitness routine at 24-Hour Fitness in Pelham. With a waterproof mp3 player, Mike transformed his swimming sessions into a meditative and invigorating experience. Adapting to his circumstances, he added stationary biking to his repertoire, using his apartment as a personal gym. He wears a fitness watch that reminds him to move every hour.
Studies show that physical inactivity is a big contributor to diseases and a shortened lifespan. Any additional movement—even short movement bursts—can improve your health, shows recent research. In short, take the stairs, park a little farther. Small snippets add up.
2. Stay social
Understanding the importance of social connections in maintaining his own well-being, Morales engaged in activities like Tai Chi at a local Senior Center in New Rochelle and embraced the rising popularity of pickleball. In addition to solo laps in the pool, he participates in group classes like Zumba. Not only is he staying active, but he’s also making new connections.
These connections are increasingly important to maintain as we age. Research shows social isolation has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and earlier death. So, get moving with someone else. Take a class at the senior center; join a gym; or just call up a friend to join you for a walk.
3. Engage your brain
In addition to physical activities, Morales pursued an array of activities to develop new passions. He enrolled in computer classes at the library, taught himself to play the piano, and participates in a book club at his church. “We talk about the plot points and it works my brain,” he notes.
His “use it or lose it” mentality is key to maintaining brain health. A recent white paper published by Medical News Today reveals that in addition to regular exercise, strong relationships and passion are key to maintaining cognitive function during the aging process. Individuals who develop passions that motivate them to pursue and improve performance in activities can strengthen their gray matter and neural cells.
Morales’ zest for life and healthy habits align with scientific evidence for aging well and serve as an inspiration. He notes, “Eat, sleep, move. That’s what they say about longevity. I feel lucky to be here. There are no second acts in life.”
United Hebrew a campus of comprehensive senior care offering independent senior housing, long-term skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, assisted living, and memory care for those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 914-632-2804, or contact us here.